I love the Aussies. As a way to wait out the Indian monsoon for research leaves in 1995 and 1999, I chose to lay over in Australia for those two summers. Not only did I find the citizens friendly and hospitable, I also enjoyed the gorgeous campus of the University of Queensland and took full advantage of its world-class library.
Sen. Ted Cruz has embarrassed himself once again by showing his ignorance about an important ally. In response to Australia’s vaccination mandate for its workers and fines for noncompliance, Cruz tweeted: “I’ve always said Australia is the Texas of the Pacific. The COVID tyranny of their current government is disgraceful. I stand with all Australians. Individual liberty matters.”
Cruz received a swift response from provincial Chief Minister Michael Gunner: “Hey Ted Cruz, g’day from the Northern Territory in Australia. Here are some facts. Over 70,000 Texans have tragically died from COVID-19. There have been zero deaths in the Territory. Vaccination is so important here because we have vulnerable communities and the oldest continuous living culture on the planet to protect.”
Gunner continued: “We don’t need your lectures, thanks mate. You know nothing about us. And if you stand against a lifesaving vaccine, then you sure as hell don’t stand with Australia. I’m glad we are nothing like you.”
In April 1996, a man in Tasmania shot dead 35 people and wounded 23 others. The conservative government implemented some of the world’s strictest gun controls, including a mandatory buy-back program that reduced the number of weapons by 20 percent. The result is that Australia has had no mass shootings since that time.
Since 1996, Australia has reported a drop in firearm deaths from 521 to 219 in 2019. From 1999 to 2016, U.S. gun deaths averaged 31,808 per year, and the average in Texas, about the same population as Australia, is 3,353. Tragically, in 2014, 2,549 children died nationwide from an accidental discharge of a firearm.
The wide availability of weapons increases the possibility of gun suicides. In Australia, guns are used in 10 percent of suicides, whereas 62 percent of Americans who take their lives do so. This phenomenon has increased 13 percent over the last 10 years, especially among veterans.
I detect a theme here: the Australian government is committed to protecting human life and promoting its quality. In this regard it is very much like European welfare states. There is free universal health care, and family leave, now stripped from Biden’s social infrastructure bill, is 18 paid weeks.
The Australian health system is very efficient, taking 10 percent of the Gross Domestic Product rather than the U.S.’s 16 percent, the highest in the world with poorer results. For example, infant mortality is 5.5 per 1,000 live births (5.9 in Texas), but it is only 3.1 in Australia.
Attaining this quality of life requires high income taxes, and that means that Australians pay an average of 45 percent on their incomes, whereas Americans pay 30 percent for far fewer benefits.
Libertarians argue that high taxation stalls economic growth, but that is not always the case. In 2018, according to the Global Wealth Report, Australia surpassed Switzerland in highest average wealth. Even with frequent lockdowns, Australia suffered only a slight recession in 2020 (-.28 percent) as opposed to the U.S. (-3.49 percent).
At $14.90 (U.S.), Australia has the highest minimum wage in the world. Criticizing the Aussies for making such a “bad” economic mistake, one Republican congressman guessed that Aussies would have to pay $20 for a Big Mac. Using “purchasing power parity,” the famous burger actually costs more in the U.S. ($5.66) than it does Down Under ($4.98).
Under the leadership of the Labor Party, Australia sailed through the Great Recession of 2009-10 without any negative economic growth. One of the main factors for this success was strong metal and coal exports.
As energy producing states, this is where Texas and Australia do have something in common, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been hesitant about attending the Glasgow climate conference. I fear that his more conservative coalition partners are more inclined to please the mining barons.